The Vegetarian Swap For Delicious No-Chicken Salad

If you're looking for a way to make vegetarian-friendly chicken salad, it only takes one ingredient swap with the poultry to make a creamy dish that's just as tasty. Forget about tofu, plant-based "chicken" products, and chickpeas, because kidney beans are an ideal ingredient to make it happen. You might already have a bean salad that uses kidney beans in your weekly rotation, and you can transform that dish into a no-chicken salad with the usual ingredients that go into the creamy recipe.

Take some guidance from our creamy kidney bean salad created by Tasting Corner recipe developer Kristen Carli. Kidney beans have a rather mild flavor, which means they can take on the flavors of the seasonings and vegetables that go into the salad and not overwhelm the dish. The beans are also packed with protein so you won't miss the nutrients and satiety that chicken provides in the original version. Kidney beans also have a thick skin and the insides turn soft when cooked, providing a contrasting texture with the crunchy ingredients like the celery, carrots, and red onion in the bowl.

Drain and rinse the beans first

You can cook your beans from scratch or go with canned kidney beans to make your life a bit easier. Our recipe uses two 15-ounce cans of kidney beans, so cook accordingly if you want to use dry beans instead. With canned, consider a low-sodium or unsalted brand to have more control of the salt levels and overall flavor in the salad. Either way, it's essential to drain off any liquid to prevent a watery consistency, and to rinse off any excess liquid along with salts that might cling onto the beans. After the beans are drained and rinsed, it's time to assemble the rest of the salad according to Carli's recipe.

This recipe is flavorful in its own right, but there are ways to spruce it up. Add some sweet pickle relish or diced cornichons for more crunch. You can't go wrong with fresh herbs, so chop up the chives, parsley, or tarragon in your fridge. Mustard is a standard ingredient in some chicken salads, so use a spoonful to give the dish a punch, or use mustard powder. A dash of spices effortlessly gives the kidney bean salad more flavor, so try celery salt, paprika for smokiness, cayenne pepper for heat, or curry powder. And if this hot tip makes you want to expand your legume knowledge further, here's everything you need to know about beans including the most popular varieties.